What does it take to ‘follow your bliss”. In the case of Maureen McCarthy, all it took for her to accomplish her own courageous move to Mexico was a love of horses and dedication to finding and creating personal happiness.
A Courageous Move
A Break From Stress
I visited the Rancho Las Cascadas for the first time in April 2009. The stress at work was piling up and I just needed to get away. I didn’t have anyone to travel with, so I wanted to go someplace where I could stay busy for a week without a lot of planning or worry. When I saw the Rancho’s website, I thought “Ride a horse? Why not? How hard could it be?”
About 30 minutes after arriving at the Rancho, I jumped on a horse and took my first ride – just me and the wrangler. I’m going to admit that I went to my room afterwards and cried. Riding a horse was pretty hard. All of my insides felt like they had been tossed around in a blender. I lost a diamond earring when the strings of the sombrero I was wearing wrapped around my ear before flying off my head. My sneakers kept getting caught in the stirrups (I didn’t have riding gear). And, my hands were cramped from holding so tightly to the saddle horn. “What am I doing?” I thought. “I don’t belong here.”
My tears were more from loneliness than anything else. I had never taken a vacation by myself and I felt awkward. An introvert by nature, the trip was one of the bravest things I had ever attempted.
The next day, two ladies from England arrived. We got to know each other as we ate. We rode together and they gave me lots of advice to help me find my seat. More guests joined us throughout the week and we had fun on the day trips as we explored the local towns. The Rancho staff took care of me and made sure I was comfortable.
Everything was so new and different. The landscape was amazingly beautiful and more peaceful than I ever thought possible. I couldn’t ride the horses very well, but there was something magnetic about them; it was as if they understood me and every thought in my head. When I was with them, I forgot about work and problems and fears. I focused on my ride and overcoming the new challenges in front of me.
Little did I know that I would return to the Rancho Las Cascadas again and again. I fell in love with the horses and, over time, learned to ride quite well. Over the years, my visits became longer and longer as the time in between got shorter and shorter. I made a lot of friends from all over the world, and we started planning return visits at the same time.
A Whole New Life!
Finally, in January of this year I attempted something braver than I ever thought possible. I moved by myself to the little town of San Francisco Soyaniquilpan – only 20 minutes from the Rancho Las Cascadas. With just a suitcase and my two cats, I started a whole new life experience. I had been a tourist here for so long, I finally wanted to see what it would be like to live like a native.
Every day includes its own unique adventures. From learning Spanish to acclimating to the local customs, there’s always something new to test my fortitude. But no matter how difficult the day, I can calm myself by gazing out my apartment window at the beautiful landscape. I can take a short walk and pet a cow, dog, turkey or donkey if I want. And, I can go home on the weekends to ride.
I can’t really explain the affect the horses, and the Rancho, have had on my life…not even to myself. I’m different. I’m happier and more confident. Until now, I’ve told only my closest friends that I feel as if the horses saved me. They gave me passion and something to look forward to. They gave me an excuse to leave all the nonsense behind and find a more tranquil life.
I’m not sure where this life experiment will lead, but I don’t really care. I’m just going to enjoy each day and see what happens. As they say, life is a journey not a destination…and my journey has just begun.
Norcross, GA USA / San Francisco Soyaniquilpan, Estado de Mexico, Mexico